Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Phenotypic plasticity of an invasive acacia versus two native Mediterranean species

Ralf Peperkorn A B , Christiane Werner A and Wolfram Beyschlag A

A Department of Experimental and Systems Ecology, Universitätsstrasse 25, D-33615 Bielefeld, Germany.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Functional Plant Biology 32(10) 933-944
Submitted: 27 October 2004  Accepted: 24 May 2005   Published: 5 October 2005


The phenotypic plasticity and the competitive ability of the invasive Acacia longifolia v. the indigenous Mediterranean dune species Halimium halimifolium and Pinus pinea were evaluated. In particular, we explored the hypothesis that phenotypic plasticity in response to biotic and abiotic factors explains the observed differences in competitiveness between invasive and native species. The seedlings’ ability to exploit different resource availabilities was examined in a two factorial experimental design of light and nutrient treatments by analysing 20 physiological and morphological traits. Competitiveness was tested using an additive experimental design in combination with 15N-labelling experiments. Light and nutrient availability had only minor effects on most physiological traits and differences between species were not significant. Plasticity in response to changes in resource availability occurred in morphological and allocation traits, revealing A. longifolia to be a species of intermediate responsiveness. The major competitive advantage of A. longifolia was its constitutively high shoot elongation rate at most resource treatments and its effective nutrient acquisition. Further, A. longifolia was found to be highly tolerant against competition from native species. In contrast to common expectations, the competition experiment indicated that A. longifolia expressed a constant allocation pattern and a phenotypic plasticity similar to that of the native species.

Keywords: Acacia longifolia, competition, Halimium halimifolium, light and nutrient availability, physiological and morphological traits, Pinus pinea, resource use.


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